Album: BLACK CLOUDS & SILVER LININGS
Artist: Dream Theater
Track Listing: 1) A Nightmare to Remember 2) A Rite of Passage 3) Wither 4) The Shattered Fortress 5) The Best of Times 6) The Count ofTuscany
Two years after releasing one of their greatest albums to date in Systematic Chaos (2007), Dream Theater attempt to build upon their recent run of impressive releases. Returning to a more gothic tone that hasn’t been fully exploited anywhere else other than on Train of Thought (2003), Black Clouds & Silver Linings is a much darker album than its predecessor.
The beginnings of A Nightmare to Remember reveal that LaBrie has returned to his snarly vocals that worked brilliantly on The Dark Eternal Night. There, he sounded remarkably like James Hetfield whereas here they’re not quite that extreme. Upon returning to his regular clean vocals later on it immediately feels more fitting – less forced. They return during a brilliant mellow section that manages to be uplifting, dramatic and catchy.
After the expected soloing from various band members, some rather unappealing ‘roars’ from Portnoy come into light. Unfortunately this doesn’t disappear here as it will come up again in various places of the album and they don’t sound too good. Perhaps they thought they would give the sound a bit of needed angst, or maybe they did intend it to be a bit of a joke; either way it kinda dents the seriousness of the music. However, the whole sound can relate to this with Rudess delivering some ‘haunted house’ style keyboard runs and Petrucci’s guitar mimicking the epic horror sounds. This opener clocks in at over sixteen minutes.
You can’t really describe anything by Dream Theater as being ‘commercial’, but A Rite of Passage feels like a single and it was to become the first off this record. It’s still lengthy at over eight minutes with the band attempting to recreate the magic of Pull Me Under albeit a tad heavier in places. A fine ballad follows, Wither bringing a temporary break to the tech-gothic theme in returning to the Dream Theater of old, think Another Day from Images and Words (1992) and you’ll have an idea of the musicality on show.
The second half contains three long journeys: The Shattered Fortress and The Best of Times are both around thirteen minutes and The Count of Tuscany stretches over nineteen. So if you like long and interesting tracks, this album is definitely for you. The band shows their Rush influences as well, in some cases a bit too much with the ending number containing YYZ moments that are a bit too inspired. The Count of Tuscany develops into the band’s latest epic venture that matches the genius of A Change of Seasons and Octavarium. A dreamy mid-section is an enjoyable slice of space rock, Rudess and Petrucci executing a much needed break from the technical madness.
Overall Black Clouds & Silver Linings is a good album. Dream Theater’s choice to go gothic has its ups and downs but the lengthy tunes are solid structures to be admired upon by all who care to listen. The compositions are technically amazing as always, however this time around there is less in the way of memorable tunes. The collector’s edition contains a disc of instrumental takes of the whole album which is very enjoyable, worth it for the lack of irritating roaring. The third disc however is yet another batch of rather uninspiring cover versions ranging from Rainbow to King Crimson (this doesn’t affect the album’s overall score).
1) A Nightmare to Remember
2) The Count ofTuscany
Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 16/01/2010